Gunther Lecke was very fond of ‘The Grand Entrance'. With all his plans soon to reach fulfilment he was not going to stint himself now. Frankfurt was no more than a spit from Zurich, a comfortable ride in the luxurious vehicles that sat in Gunther's climate-controlled garages, and even easier ride in one of his helicopters, but neither was good enough for this journey. This time his helicopter would take him to Frankfurt Airport, and there he would pass through his own private gate to the Corporate jet that would take him to Zurich, a distance of around four hundred kilometres. He would savour every second of this historic meeting. Steele Horizons was one of the many companies that would become a casualty to the inevitable fall in oil prices once he became dominant in the fuel markets, the end of one of his strongest competitors. How very tragic. Many other companies and a few countries no doubt would share a similar fate, but best of all, what was left of Crown Inc would be finished one and for all. At last he would honour his father by destroying everything that his father's persecutor had built, but more than that, he himself would be rich beyond imagination. All it needed was the skill and delicacy of the world's most renown financial genius, and then it would all be his.
Over the past years, Gunther had often ruminated upon what ever had happened to Nathan King, whom he was always certain had survived his destruction of the King family. Of course, Gunther knew all about Nathan now, or at least he knew from the DNA samples held at The Massachusetts General that Tyler King had never fathered a son, and certainly not Nathan. There had been those connected deaths in America and many long conversations with that very friendly Sheriff in, where was it....?, ah yes, Camden in Maine. He had been a most helpful fellow. After that episode there were the two Englishmen whose accidental death was most creative - what a force I could have been with a son such as that, but then, things have not worked out so badly. Who would have thought that Rousseau would end up the way he did, no hand of Nathan King in his death. But then just what did happen after that? One moment the castle was almost under siege and the next, he vanished from the face of the earth. Well no need to worry about such things now.
The three man team who headed Gunther's security had all travelled by road the day before in order to checkout the surrounding area and ensure its safety for both their Boss and ‘The Financier'. Lukas Shafer, Albrecht Meer and Konrad Lange had driven down in a big BMW saloon and did nothing more than enjoy the hospitality of the expensive hotel in which they stayed. Gunther had taken an entire floor in order to guarantee his own privacy and for the convenience of a meeting he needed to have, prior to going to the mountain location where the Bolivian delegation were to stay. Not many people in the world had come face to face with this mysterious man, with his eccentric penchant for always wearing a rather battered Fedora. Gunther was looking forward to joining that small group. His security men planned to make a rapid reconnaissance in the morning, after all, they knew that the other man's team would be in place so they decided it was a waste of their time to repeat the effort. Gunther seemed to be paranoid about his safety, but the truth was that in all they years they had been together, not one incident had occurred. The man was simply vain, that's all there was to it.
Nathan had been lucky, he had been given just enough time to prepare. He had spent two days scouting the streets of Zurich, until at last he found what he was looking for - a tall empty office building, its doors and windows boarded over, waiting for the almost endless rounds of planning approval before it could be redeveloped. Picking the padlock of one of the chains so that he could lock it again had been child's play, but he didn't notice that his work exposed a chain link that had been covered over before and now stood out from the rest by its lack of a brown rust coating. Nathan had checked out the entire building to ensure that it would fill his needs. Crouching on the flat roof and with the powerful sniper scope from his rifle, he could see right through the double glass doors of the luxury hotel, fifteen hundred yards away. At just under a mile his round would lose little of its terrible force when it reached the soft barrier of a human skull. He had a week to get himself mentally conditioned - he was already at the peak of physical fitness. This time it was proving very difficult to stay focused because of the much deeper personal involvement that he felt.
He was ready now. Everything he needed had been obtained and was in place. Nathan had constructed a small hide on the roof, which even close up looked like a pile of old building materials. He would allow himself to warm some food on a camping gas burner in the stairwell of the deserted building, but mainly he would rely on a minimal amount of water, food supplements that he combined into his own tested formula, and drugs. In a state of hyper-alertness, he would become one with the building, waiting and watching. With luck, if he was able to make both shots, then at last he might be able top finish his quest to discover who he really was. The three men that surrounded Lecke would be brought to book the moment he saw Lecke die, and then he could let his family rest in peace, and begin to mourn them too. Nathan had long decided that as far as he was concerned, his adoptive parents would always be the parents he remembered and loved, it was just that he felt something deep inside that was compelling him to find out who his birth parents were - so that he at least knew.
There was no time for such thoughts now. The past week had been unusually blustery and changeable, but now the weather seemed to have settled down and the days up on the roof were almost pleasant. This was going to be the very last one. He had more than enough money for his needs, the killing had to stop. He had made that same promise time and again, but he had never managed to keep it, but never before had he been so close to the end of the long road that he chose to tread. The laptop computer was working okay, the anemometer had been tested a dozen times and would be tested a hundred times more. There was a perfect field of vision and his directional microphones picked up sounds to which they were aimed with a pinpoint accuracy.
It was today. Nathan was living on pure adrenaline. Gunther's men were making their rapid scan of the area, each man on a wider radius than the other. They drew straws and Albrecht got the furthest perimeter, and therefore the longest. When he drove slowly by the abandoned office block he paused to quickly check that it was locked up securely, and it was then that he spotted that the chain had been moved recently. He broke open the lock with a tyre lever from his car, subtly being pointless, drew his weapon, and began to check out each floor until eventually he reached the roof. Nathan's reflexes were so sharply tuned, so highly strung, that when Albrecht appeared suddenly on the roof, Nathan had killed him in the blink of an eye. He looked down at the body with its broken neck, with distaste and contempt. Here was somebody he had once trained with, had been a student with for a while, and whom he had recognised at once from that night on the Island. Meer had once been a friend but now he was dead, which meant there were only three men left who had to pay that same ultimate price. Twice now the dead German's radio had broken the silence and Nathan had mumbled into it, hoping to fool the person at the other end for just a few minutes longer. His microphones picked up the sound of powerful engines, and Nathan swivelled the scope to look. He could see two Mercedes SUVs and sandwiched in the middle, a Maybach saloon. At last, they were coming.
Nathan used a mental process that slowed his heartbeat and reduced his breathing to no more than the faintest wisp of air. He became so still that he could be mistaken for dead, but he was anything but that. Every fibre of his body was tuned to the very air, to every vibration, those that were familiar and could be discounted and any, like Albrecht's breathing, that were not. His sniper-scope was set on target; all he would need would be the slightest adjustment when his man got out of his vehicle. There was no sweat on Nathan's brow, no tension in his body, he was perfectly relaxed without the slightest tremble and the computer that compensated for any of those human failings just kept sampling the wind speed, which had dropped to no more than a whisper. And then the motorcade drew up at the front of the hotel. Albrecht's radio burst into life once more but this time Nathan ignored it. The near-side door of the Maybach opened. There was one security man to the front of the door and another coming around behind from one of the Mercedes SUVs. A man stepped out of the car, his head down as he exited, then straightened up placing his well worn talisman on his head. The sights of Nathan's awesome rifle were centred on the back of his head when somebody still in the limousine called out to the man, who turned back, reaching out a hand to grasp his briefcase that was being offered. As he turned back his face filled Nathan's sniper scope, and at that precise second Nathan gasped out loud, jerking his rifle off target as he simultaneously pulled the trigger - not a gentle squeeze but a bad jerk that further spoiled his aim. In that brief second he had seen the face and his remarkable memory now held that image forever, but it was an image he knew well, because the face he saw was his own !
The shot went well wide of its mark. Due to the elevation, it ploughed through the roof of the Maybach, its incredible power sending it on through the top of the dashboard, and on into the engine compartment. It struck the engine block, cracking it and ricocheted out though the front wing. By the time the bullet emerged it was just a misshapen lump of steel encased lead, spinning over and over but it was a big piece of metal and still moving with considerable force when it struck the stomach of the front bodyguard. As chance would have it, the unlucky man was Konrad Lange, The Financier's man being behind the door at that time. Konrad had been sent down by Gunther as an act of courtesy to his guest. The bullet ripped out most of Lange's stomach and he fell to the ground, trying to push his own intestines back into the gaping wound, a sick parody of Mickey Garcia's death in Texas, a long time ago. ‘The Financier', gagged once, then gave up and emptied his own stomach all over the poor man before he was hustled into the hotel. A swarm of security men had assembled and already the strident sound of Police sirens was ripping discordantly through the air.
Nathan had no time to even think about what he had just seen, let alone fire his second bullet which was still in the five round magazine - the first time he had ever fitted one to the bolt action weapon. Moving fast he stripped the gun down and dropped the parts into a dark green canvas bag. Then, he pulled on the uniform that had been inside the same bag, a uniform that he had carefully adapted. There was a breathing set too, and he put that on, over his face. His modified clothes would not work anywhere like as well as they had been designed to do, but it was all part of his plan. As soon as he was ready, Nathan triggered the incendiary devices that he had carefully concealed in the building, concealed so well that Albrecht had failed to see them. In minutes the building was belching smoke and flames, and Nathan was studying the dial of the military style watch he was wearing. He knew how long the Zurich Fire Service took to respond - he had set off three false alarms in the past few days so that he could time them, and was surprised at their efficiency. The flames began to feel very warm inside his ‘doctored' fireman's uniform as he waited.
The Police arrived at the Hotel just moments before the fire crew reached the flaming building. Konrad Lange lay dead at the steps to the hotel doors. All aruond there was pandemonium. The fire was clearly visible from the Hotel, its black acrid smoke belching upwards in the still Swiss air. Already the streets were becoming crowded as curious bystanders flocked to stare at the bloody scene of carnage, only for their attention to be snatched away by the distant inferno. Some stayed at the hotel where already the Swiss Police were pushing them back, beyond the area they deemed the ‘crime scene', while others having seen the body and the mass of blood that ran down into the gutter turned away and headed for the fire. People were coming and going in all directions - it was total chaos, yet somehow both the Police and the Fire Service reached their destinations. While some forensic officers searched the ground for any clues or even items of evidence, the detective who had been assigned to the call was questioning the bodyguards who remained at their stations. Gunther was inside his suite, shaken by what had happened and ensuring that Lukas was always in his sight. "Lukas! Have you heard yet from Albrecht ?", he demanded.
"But you have regular check-ins, do you not ? Did you hear from him then ?"
"Yeah, he checked in....", then Lukas thought about that for a second, "well maybe not. Nobody actually spoke to him, he just sort of grunted. Sometimes Albrecht can be a bit taciturn when it suits him. He was not happy about having the widest check zone. You know, now I come to think of it, it could have been anybody on his radio."
Gunther nodded, "it is as I suspected. We have lost him too. As soon as the Police finish we must get the hell out of here."
"You mean you are not going to your meeting ?", asked Lukas in surprise.
"Yes, yes of course I am - at least we should be safe up there. I must try to raise room service and see if I can get something to eat in this god-damned shit hole!"
Just then there was a knock on his door. Lukas drew his weapon and opened the door on its security chain. Seeing two uniformed policemen flanking another man who was dressed in an cheap but well pressed suit (he guessed the man was the ranking police officer), he quickly hid his gun and opened the door fully.
At the other end of the floor, The Financier was sitting in a comfortable armchair. His face had an ashen pallor and he was shaking with fright. The front of his three thousand pound suit jacket was stained with vomit, which hung around in the still air of the room, a bad smelling aroma that the many fresh flowers could not quell. He tried to sip from a large glass of Brandy, but his hands shook every time he raised the glass. One of his aides had summoned a private physician to attend and administer something stronger to calm his terrified employer. When he spoke, even his voice trembled, "we will stay here just for tonight, then in the morning I will return to my home."
"You do not wish to attend the meeting with Gunther Lecke ?"
"I most certainly do not, but be sure to bill him my usual fee. The man is an imbecile."
"Very good, Sir."
Some of the Police had been diverted to the fire scene and had already organised the growing crowds there. When the fire crew arrived they deployed straight away, connecting up long snaking hoses to fire hydrants and preparing to battle the flames. Two men in breathing apparatus ventured to the chained door which now hung open where Albrecht had left it. The minute they set foot inside the stairwell, something seemed odd to the experienced fire-fighters. There was a dense black smoke that made visibility only two or three feet, yet very little flame. As they went cautiously up the stairs they noted that the doors to each floor were shut - which was excellent since it denied the stairwell the opportunity to act as a great chimney, fanning the flames upward. Taking a chance that was weighted by knowledge and growing suspicion, they ventured onto one of the floors. Inside the blaze seemed to be highly concentrated, set to create the maximum of visible flames and smoke, yet unable to spread very quickly. There was no doubt at all in their minds that it had been staged, but they still had to check it all out, and anyway there had been a report of a man glimpsed momentarily on the roof. Eventually they reached the roof. Powerful hoses were being played on the lower floors through smashed windows and burned out sheet plywood covering. Now tendrils of steam were adding to the smoke. Both firemen circled the roof carefully, knowing that one false step could send them to their deaths over the low parapet. As soon as they fanned out to search, Nathan slipped unseen, back down the stairwell. His escape now depended upon speed.
He raced down the stairs as fast as he dared. Underneath his apparent fireman's protective suit, his own clothes were beginning to scorch and smoulder. When he emerged at a run from the door on the ground, he left a trail of smoke and some of the sightseers thought that the brave fireman was himself on fire. It was a very close thing. Alerted by the screams of the crowd, one of the other men played a weak jet of water over him to douse his clothes, puzzled at how such a thing could happen but far too busy doing his job to worry about it yet. Soaked through, Nathan gave a thumbs up and darted out of sight behind the fire tender. The very second he knew that he was concealed, he tore furiously at the Velcro fastenings that held his suit to his body. He had slit it in such a way that just two or three sharp tugs would pull the whole thing off, but the cost was its inherent protection. He wrenched off his breathing apparatus which he dropped to the ground on top of his now discarded suit. His casual clothes were a little wet, but in a crowd such as this nobody would notice. Inside the hold-all he had a thin nylon cover coloured gold and white which he slipped over the canvas bag, and in the space of a few frenzied seconds he emerged from the other end of the fire tender, then melted away into the side streets.
It had not taken the fire crew very long to reach the building, but in that short space of time Nathan had come up with an audacious plan that he intended to put into action immediately. Once, Nathan had tried to explain to Tyler just how it was that his memory worked. He thought that maybe it was possible to teach the skill, as though it were nothing more than just that, and Tyler had been keenly interested. Try as he might, several simple memory games proved that it was much more than skill. When he explained it he had said that he did not need to close his eyes to do it, it was like when you recall a happy memory and you can see it quite distinctly, only much more so. In his mind he could turn on a TV screen and then summon up any image he chose. Once recalled it would be as if he were seeing it in front of him. Anything he deemed trivial he could delete forever, much like the way he could delete a file on a computer. The image he saw now was ‘The Financier'. He could see that whoever he was, he was not in the same physical shape as himself, the man's skin had almost a sickly look about it, but his face, his eyes and mouth, his nose - they were perfect, like a carbon copy. Nathan realised that neither this man nor Gunther would stay for long in Zurich and so he had to act right now, if he was to do anything at all.
He returned the gun to the place of concealment that he had collected it from. Nathan knew that by nightfall the weapon would be gone, no trace of it left. Then he ran to the busy shopping precincts of the city. The manager of the expensive gentleman's outfitters that he discovered was a little bemused by the rather scruffy American who burst into his shop and explained that he was on vacation and he had been summoned to an important meeting. Nathan picked out a suit that was almost exactly like the one he had seen ‘The Financier' wearing, then a shirt and tie, and a guess at a pair of shoes that should look right. The tie was near enough, the shirt perfect. Then, to the further amusement of the shop staff. Nathan changed into all his new clothes, asking them to throw his old ones out, which they did with both pleasure and distaste. The old clothes were damp and smelled strongly of smoke, not from a wood or coal fire but more like...more like the smell that carried on the air that day from the raging fire a few blocks away. He paid in cash, then asked where he might find a Milliners, explaining that it was his Company's custom for senior executives to wear a hat. Unwilling to lost a single Franc of the sale, the manager said that he would send one of his staff to collect some, if Nathan could just tell him the style he had in mind ? About an hour after the Police arrived at the hotel, Nathan emerged from the shop, resplendent in his smart business suit, and wearing a cream coloured Fedora. The band around it was a deep navy blue, but it would have to do. There was no time to lose.
The long serving police detective who had arrived at the hotel had finished with his questioning of the hotel staff and of the bodyguards who had been present at the shooting. He was a wise officer and when the building in the distance burst into flame he thought it far too coincidental to be just chance. Even so, he estimated the smoking tower to be about a mile away. In terms of elevation it was perfect, but he himself was no mean marksman and wondered what kind of weapon could have such a devastating impact over that distance, and if so, what kind of man it was that could use such a weapon with such effect - a few centimetres to the right and...He was unable to rule the possibility out and so he sent one of his own team to the fire scene with instructions to try and checkout the building just as soon as the fire-crew gave the all clear. He had no idea what he was looking for, but the man he sent was equally experienced in crimes such as this, and he knew what to do. The Foyer of the hotel was more or less back to normal, with just a line of Police Tape running around the area where Konrad Lange had died. The Maybach had been checked over and allowed to leave the scene, the exit hole from the large calibre bullet quite obvious on its glossy black front wing. Two of The Financier's team remained on station, one near the lifts and another in the open lounge area from where he commanded a good view of everybody who went in or out of the building. Lukas Shafer remained in Gunther's suite, guarding his Boss and earning his pay for the first time in many years. Nathan King had just turned a corner onto the street upon which stood the Hotel.
Safe in his own suite, ‘The Financier' had met with his physician and was feeling much better. The more he thought about the events the more angry he became, and anger was not an emotion he gave way to very often. Finally, incensed now, he decided that he would go down the that dreadful German's suite and put his straight on a few things. How dare he be so inept as to expose him to the near death situation that he had so narrowly escaped ! The man was an imbecile! My fee ? Pah! He can pay me double me few! With that, he rose to his feet, summoned two bodyguards, and marched down the length of the top floor to Gunther's suite, where he rapped hard on the unguarded door.
Nathan walked into the hotel foyer. When he had been watching and waiting he had heard barely a handful of words. The microphones picked up a muffled voice that said, "Sir, your briefcase!", from somewhere within the limousine. A hurried, "what ? Oh yes, how stupid of me. Thank you", was caught as the reply and then, "principal and party entering the hotel", from one of the security men talking into a headset followed immediately by a jumble of voices, "man down! Man down! We have a code Red here, I say again, code red!". Then the man in the hat, "oh my god! Oh Jesus Christ! Look at his stomach...", then the sounds of somebody being violently sick. "This way Sir. Keep your head down and do exactly as we say..." The thing that Nathan noted in all of this was the accents - it was English, not American or even Australian, those men were all Brits. Nathan was not much of a mimic despite all his other skills and he reckoned his Englishman was about as convincing as Dick Van Dyke's cockney, but all he needed to do was to snap out a few words, take control with authority, and who would the dare question him ? So he straightened up, walked quickly up the steps at the front of the hotel, and began to cross the foyer in the direction of the lifts. He had no idea where he was going after that, hoping that a well trained bodyguard would take that problem out of his hands. The man standing by the lift looked at Nathan with some confusion evident on his face. ‘The principal ? Here ? How could that be ? He was upstairs in his suite ? Had he slipped out the back way ?No, impossible. But wait, there is something else, something not quite right here, but I can't put my finger on it.'
Nathan had no idea if the man who was obviously a bodyguard belonged to Lecke, to his target or even to somebody else altogether. He looked him straight in the eye and a formed an expression of one asking something that need not be spoken, "well ?", he barked, trying his best to lose his American edge. The guard looked at him again, almost inspecting him, unsure, then spoke into his headset, "principal coming back up", he said opening the lift doors. Nathan followed him in, turning so that his back was to the man whose eyes he could feel boring into him, trying to see what it was that he could not see. The lift began to ascend.
Lukas opened the door cautiously, peered out and saw ‘The Financier' flanked by his two security men.
"Well ?", snapped The Financier, is he in here ? Lecke ?"
"Then open the damn door you idiot and let me in!" As he stormed into the room he was unsure of what to expect, but he never expected the response that he did get. Gunther had his back to him, a large crystal glass filled with an excellent Riesling in one hand. As he heard his own door slam shut he turned to face ‘The Financier' for the first time. His mouth opened in shock and horror, and the glass fell from his hand, shattering on the marble floor, the wine running out into a golden puddle. All the colour drained from his face and he began to tremble visibly. Even more incredible, a wet patch appeared at his groin, slowly spreading as his bladder emptied and he screamed in a high, almost falsetto voice, "Lukas! You imbecile! Its him, Nathan King ! You let him in here you idiot! Kill him, for god's sake use your gun and kill the bastard now! Don't let him get near me, please Lukas. Anything you want, anything but kill him, I beg you...", and he was reduced almost to soft gibbering, so terrified was he of the man who stood before him with a look of utter astonishment on his face.
Lukas reached for his weapon, unwilling to believe that this, this person, was the feared Nathan King - the man who could destroy an entire hit-team on his own. This man ? Don't make me laugh! I mean, look at him. A killer ? Nonsense, but still, reflexively, his hand tracked towards his shoulder holster, found the pistol and withdrew it. He was a lifetime too slow. The man to the left of ‘The Financier' raised his own gun, almost lazily it seemed, and fired two shots, silenced shots that sounded, ‘phut-phut', a perfect double-tap as taught in the killing house of the SAS, and Lukas was dead. Gunther fell to his knees, then actually crawled forwards to put his arms around The Financier's legs, "please don't kill me, please I beg of you", he sobbed because now he was crying, great wracking sobs of despair, "you can have it all back, just leave me alone. I am so sorry, Nathan. Please...?"
The Financier was a little disgusted by this open show of cowardice, although he could not fathom what had brought it on. It was actually rather embarrassing, and all he wanted to do now was to go back to his own suite. What a dreadful day this had turned out to be. "My dear chap, nobody is going to harm you. I think you have me mixed up with somebody else. My name, and I do not often part with it so I trust you to be mindful of this confidence, is Daniel Preston, and I do believe that our business here is concluded. You will receive my invoice in the morning. Good day to you."